Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The Surrogatesby Robert Venditti

I had high hopes and maybe it was my fault hoping for a really gripping read accompanied by high-level artwork. It turned out to be something of a dud. There is definitely the seed of a great story but it never quite blossomed and the hastily presented resolution is dissatisfying to say the least. The crude artwork is without raw energy often associated with such style and the Surries, perfect and sleek and are such an improvement of "vanilla" humans, do not to be so. I believe the stale look of the panels is largely due to a fairly-uniformed Photoshopping process. Too bad.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

This book reminds of a third grade project that my daughter did: to write a short story that accompanies one picture from Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In fact, on Van Allsburg's site, there is an entire section dedicated to stories from "readers" of the book inspired by the images in the book.

Outer Suburbia has that same absurdity, the same eeriness and outlandish qualities that constantly surprise and delight the reader, even when we feel slightly uncomfortable with what we read and see. It is at times unsettling and other times deeply moving.

I am not sure that this is a book just for children or teens. It seems to me that it is very much a book made to just express the artist's imagination and to satisfy his own storytelling needs -- which, ultimately, benefits the readers who would appreciate this kind of short vignettes. My favorite stories/images are: Eric, No Other Country, Alert But Not Alarmed, Make Your Own Pet, and strangely my top choice: The Nameless Holiday.

The entire book design is so amazing as well. I remember the sense of thrill and awe when I first discovered the Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantock. This one comes close.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Islands of the Blessed

The Islands of the Blessedby Nancy Farmer

The pacing isn't fast, but it is just right. The actions aren't created to merely thrill the readers, but they are thrilling and serve as bench marks of the characters' growth -- everything moves their understanding of the world along. I so appreciate Farmer's ability to create highly imaginative and imaginable (for a not very visual reader) landscapes. It is wonderful to encounter fresh new details of your staple fantasy elements, such as the power of the bell Fair Lamenting and how it is truly magical due to the artistic achievement of the maker of the clapper and how Mermaids crave good combs because barnacles find their hair the best place to grow and without combs, they will be weighed down by the barnacles on their heads and can never swim.

So much sympathy is given to all the characters, including the villains - lots of gray and never strictly black and white. And the last page made me happy, too -- what a nice way to end a popular trilogy.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Time Machine

The Time Machineby H.G. Wells

This is the first time I actually read this classic science fiction. As a forerunner of this genre, it does not feel stale or naive. It does not attempt to dazzle the reader with gadgets or worldbuilding, but simply tells a solid and thoughtful tale. And it is such a short and quick read, too.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Creature of the Night

Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson

The story definitely gripped me from the get go, and the voice of Bobby is raw and oh-so-real. I only wish that it had not been so "realistic," that the creature of the night (which turns out to be Bobby in a sense when he realized how dark his life has been) - the Little Woman/Badger - features more prominently and the slightly creepy, surreal mood is maintained throughout the book. The long stretches Bobby's work habits and his finding his way into PJ Dooley's life are essential to the character development but it definitely slows down the momentum and almost feels like too much light and too light in a dark and heavy story.

Eventually, this is a realistic fiction, a coming-of-age story, a hopeful tale (with its feel-good epilogue,) and an intimate look at a troubled teen's life. It shows a boy who battles with his inner demon, like a boxing match -- He's Down, the Demon's Down, oh, no, He's Down again.. he gets up... and the Demon strikes back... ... ... and yet.. we never got that really satisfying FINAL *POW* PUNCH. It is so real-life that it does not have enough dramatic force toward the end.

I might have been happy to NOT have that Epilogue -- to keep myself guessing and thinking hard about his potential future(s).

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Cold Blood

In Cold Bloodby Truman Capote

Finally got a chance to read this. Excellent beyond belief. No wonder it is such a famous book. Capote is not only a great sentence crafter, he is also so skilled in putting together the whole picture bit by bit with just the right amount of tension as each chapter progresses and as each section of the book falls into place. There is the "cold blood" chilling-ness permeating the book, of course, but there is also so much that is entirely human about each person's tale. We wonder about these murderers and what went wrong in their lives and in their brains and in their hearts. I feel both a deep sorrow and a real emotional detachment - two highly opposite sensations and yet they co-exist the entire time as I read the book. I'd credit the author for giving a most unusual reading experience.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

THe Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

So much of the book works for me -- the painfully honest and self-deprecating tone of Fanboy who tells his own "adventure," the unexpected plot surprises, and tension, the pacing, moving briskly and breathlessly from one chapter to the next, and the discussion of excellent graphic novels throughout the tale. And yet, some thing is not quite gelling at the end. I'm not as bothered by the non-conclusive ending as by the "revelation" that all adults are just like the bullies in the school: you just have to bully and fool them back and your life will be peachy. Hmm... is that what this amazingly big adventure all about? Very much puzzled.

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